Rounding Up the Latest Kansas City Chiefs Offseason Buzz
For the Kansas City Chiefs, the past week of offseason OTAs have turned team facilities into a beehive. The atmosphere could be likened to a drama-fueled, gossip-grumbling Lifetime movie—interrupted by a few passes and weight clanks—that slowly fades to black and quivers lips after the first snap of "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye" hits.
(If you accuse that of being melodramatic, I'll tell you that my world crumbled when the Ninja Turtles were exposed as fakes. There's at least one mom who brought Kleenexes to someone in a tear-drenched No. 24 jersey this weekend...and knowing how passionate Kansas City natives are, odds are that it was a middle-aged man.)
The lion's share of headlines this week stemmed from off-field incidents—some of which had on-field repercussions.
However, with mandatory minicamp peaking around the corner (June 17), a number of names have upped their game, while the Chiefs' bank vault went from desolate to Scrooge McDuck-esque in half a heartbeat.
That, in turn, could trigger the much-anticipated reunion with one of their familiar faces.
5. Dwayne Bowe Continues to Raise Eyebrows
Let's state the obvious: When reporters ask athletes how they're feeling, no one replies, "Eh, a little bloated."
The answer always involves some blend of "great," "best" and "working hard."
Having said that, not every athlete hires a nutritionist, which is something Dwayne Bowe did for the first time in his career. The decision seems to be paying immediate dividends, as Andy Reid told Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star: “I think Dwayne came back in phenomenal shape, that’s one thing."
Wide receivers coach David Culley elaborated on the point, claiming:
At this point in his career, he decided ‘Hey look, I want to play a long time.’ And in order to play a long time in this league, you’ve got to have yourself right, physically. And he’s done that.
He’s a little bit lighter … and that weight’s going to fluctuate a little bit. But if we can keep him down at that weight, I think he’s going to be very productive for us.
Regardless of cause, Bowe's performance has left promising impressions on prying eyes, including Nick Jacobs of TWC SportsChannel:
From a timing & trust standpoint. Dwayne Bowe & Alex Smith are on the same page. It's hard to ignore. Contest coverage or not.— Nick Jacobs (@Jacobs71) June 12, 2014
4. Justin Houston Remains MIA
With Brandon Flowers' release, the Chiefs now have a stack of chips on the negotiating table.
The team's two biggest offseason priorities lie in re-signing Alex Smith and Justin Houston, something which they can do more easily now, as noted by John Clayton of ESPN:
With the Chiefs releasing Brandon Flowers, the Chiefs can try to extend Alex Smith and Justin Houston.— John Clayton (@ClaytonESPN) June 13, 2014
While there haven't been any murmurs of how talks are progressing (or aren't) on either front as of late, Smith has looked light years ahead of his friendly competition at OTAs.
Considering he's also the most pivotal—not most talented—member of the offense, his deal is a question of "when" not "if." Plus, while he'll need a new wallet, a healthy chunk of his new contract will likely come in the form of a signing bonus, which will prorate (or distribute) the damage over the length of the deal.
Houston, meanwhile, is currently the most buzz-worthy name of the two. And like Smith, he's the team's most critical asset on his side of the ball.
In all likelihood, his contract will be inked sooner than his quarterback's. Given the edge-rusher's age and value, retaining him is a no-brainer.
However, if he doesn't report to mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, the situation will become national news. Furthermore, under the new CBA, players can be fined up to nearly $70,000 (total) for not attending the three-day session, as noted national football writer by Joel Corry:
The maximum fine for missing mandatory mini-camp is $69,455 ($11,575-1st day; $23,150-2nd day; $34,730-3rd day).— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) May 30, 2014
When you're a player whose base salary is only $1.405 million—"only" being loosely emphasized here—that's not the easiest pill to swallow.
3. Tyler Bray Is Growing Wiser with Age
Prior to last year's draft, maturity was Tyler Bray's kryptonite. It caused him to slip from being considered a third-round prospect with a first-round arm to becoming an undrafted enigma.
He exited college as a true junior equipped with a fire-breathing right arm, but off the field his decisions made it seem as though he had no moral compass.
A season later, he now appears to be connecting the pieces of a once-scrambled puzzle, as Andy Reid told Taylor:
Sometimes when you’re one of the younger guys that … is picked up and brought to a team, you can be a little brother, and that’s not the way he’s approached it. He’s kind of worked his way in where he’s gained the respect of the players that are around him. I’m proud of him for that.
Bray is the archetypal pocket passer.
If he's flushed out of his comfort zone, his athleticism is more reminiscent of Dwight Schrute than Colin Kaepernick. However, he's a towering 6'6" passer who can snipe a ball through a hoop and create a ring of fire.
2. Pro Bowler Brandon Flowers' Dismissal
The release of Pro Bowler Brandon Flowers led to two things: a wealth of cap room and my timeline doubling as an ad for exclamation marks. Flowers had some nice things to say upon his departure, however:
Just want to say thanks to the Hunt family for the 6years in Kansas City thanks to the fans and my teammates for some great years.— Brandon Flowers (@BFlowers24) June 13, 2014
According to Spotrac, the Chiefs now rank No. 14 in the league in terms of cap space (from most to fewest) with $10,059,285 million to spend, which, depending on whether Flowers earned his workout bonus, could marginally fluctuate by $250,000.
The news sparked a chain of (primarily positive) reactions that resided in the veteran's corner.
And then there was one.
Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. took it upon himself to pour salt in the wounds and pen another chapter to the divisional rivalry, ringing the bell by badmouthing the Chiefs' current secondary, then discrediting Flowers in Round 2:
Flowers cut that's crazy chiefs must got some corners we don't know about lol— Chris Harris (@ChrisHarrisJr) June 13, 2014
I'm still tryna figure out how flowers made pro bowl too lol— Chris Harris (@ChrisHarrisJr) June 13, 2014
While Harris' sentiments oozed with "#TroLoLol" (im)maturity, he has a case.
Flowers didn't craft a Pro Bowl-worthy season in 2013, grading out as Pro Football Focus' No. 87 (subscription required) overall corner last year. As an undersized defender, he struggled in Bob Sutton's predominantly press-man scheme, and a handful of injuries didn't help his uphill battle, either.
That being said, Flowers ranked as a top-seven corner throughout the four years prior to 2013, when the Chiefs employed more zone-friendly concepts.
History aside, the fan favorite won't have a shortage of suitors on the market—all of whom are about to turn his iPhone into a digital drum, according to a few prominent media members:
Team to watch for Brandon Flowers: The #Falcons. They have been monitoring the situation & preparing in case Flowers was cut. Today he was— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 13, 2014
Brandon Flowers and Chris Houston cut today. Anyone need a cornerback?— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) June 13, 2014
1. CB Sean Smith's Arrest and Demotion
When the Chiefs signed Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson to complement Brandon Flowers, there was a common consensus that it could be one of (if not the) best trios in the league.
Fast-forward 365 days; two of them are jobless, and the other, Smith, is veering toward the same exit by this time next offseason. ESPN's Adam Teicher reports:
Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith was cited for driving under the influence and careless driving after an officer witnessed him lose control and strike a light pole early Monday.
According to a copy of the police report, Smith was attempting to make a turn in Kansas City's Power & Light entertainment district when he struck the light pole around 12:30 a.m. The officer reported that Smith "appeared confused and began mumbling statements that I did not understand."
Smith declined medical attention. Along with citations for driving under the influence, he was also cited for failure to provide insurance.
Due to his recent run-in, Smith was swiftly relegated to the second team, as noted by Sean Keeler of Fox Sports:
Is it a permanent fixture? No.
However, Marcus Cooper is the team's reigning Rookie of the Year, and Phillip Gaines sweats with starter potential. But being that the duo is plagued with inexperience, Smith will likely revert to taking first-team reps once mandatory minicamp begins.
Plus, since the Chiefs would forfeit $2.2 million in cap room by severing ties with Smith, his roster spot is cemented. Next year, though, the prefix of that disincentive will vanish, as the team can gain $5.5 million through his departure.
Last season, out of 110 cornerbacks who partook in one-fourth of their club's defensive snaps, Smith allowed opposing wideouts to catch just half of their intended targets, ranking No. 8 in that category, per PFF.
On the flip side, when they did burn the corner, they incinerated him. Smith's opponents averaged 15.4 yards per reception—the 12th-most among that same demographic.
In other words, the sixth-year defender is on a relatively short leash. If he's wise, Smith will buckle down, stay on the straight and narrow and avoid any off-field incidents (and light poles).
Follow Brett on Twitter: @BrettGering